By Kathryn Kopchik
LEWISBURG, Pa. — A collaborative student-faculty-library staff class project that used World War II-era posters from the Bucknell University Special Collections has received the 2009 Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Instruction Section (IS) Innovation Award.
The project was developed by David Willson Del Testa, assistant professor of history at Bucknell, and Abby Clobridge, most recently a librarian and digital initiatives group leader at Bucknell.
Introductory history course module
To find creative ways to develop students' research, information literacy and technology skills within the context of a course, Del Testa and Clobridge developed the World War II Poster Project as a six-week learning module embedded in an introductory history course, History 100: Thinking about History, which focused on World War II.
"This project required intense learning and research on the part of the students in terms of how to record, preserve and introduce these materials to other interested users," said Del Testa. "The key to the whole exercise is that it was 'real,' meaning that it dealt with actual posters from the era originating from Bucknell and Lewisburg.
"The class divided into teams, each choosing a poster from the Bucknell University Archives WWII poster collection to research, analyze and interpret according to various components including historical context, artistic style, iconography, symbolism, physicality, presentation, composition, intention, meaning and impact."
For the culmination of the project, students wrote papers and built a small, publicly available repository of digital images of the posters and notes about their research. The best student papers will be included in a digital library.
Creative and collaborative approach
"The IS Awards Committee chose the Bucknell University World War II Poster Project because of its creative and collaborative approach to research, information literacy and technological skills within the context of an introductory history course and a special collection," said award committee co-chair Emily Rogers, assistant professor and reference librarian at Valdosta State University.
"Students worked hands on with original World War II-era posters from the University's archives to develop proficiency at describing, researching, analyzing, digitizing and cataloging them," said Rogers. "This project helped them understand the importance of arranging and describing information, to develop richer understanding of visual representations of history and to appreciate collaboration among teaching and library faculty and staff."
Diane Graves, university librarian at Trinity University, said, "Not only did the project introduce students to research tools and methods, it also brought them face to face with the reasons we do these things: to preserve and describe materials for the historical record — and for generations to come."
Two models developed
Bucknell's World War II Poster Project has led to the development of two distinct pedagogical models, both of which can be adapted by library staff at other institutions independent of the posters themselves. While developing the unit, Clobridge and Del Testa mapped the project's instructional activities to the ACRL information literacy standards and the regional accreditation standards for information literacy from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Sponsored by Lexis-Nexis, the annual award recognizes a project that demonstrates creative, innovative or unique approaches to information literacy instruction or programming. A prize of $3,000 and a plaque will be presented to Clobridge and Del Testa during the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago this July.
Del Testa received his B.A. in modern European studies from the University of California-Davis, where he also received his M.A. and Ph.D. in history. Clobridge received her B.A. in history from Tufts University and earned her M.S. in library science from Florida State University.
ACRL is a division of the American Library Association (ALA), representing more than 13,000 academic and research librarians and interested individuals. ACRL is the only individual membership organization in North America that develops programs, products and services to meet the unique needs of academic and research librarians. Its initiatives enable the higher education community to understand the role that academic libraries play in the teaching, learning and research environments.
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